April 2005

Formations lesson for April 24: Speaking of Persecution : Friday, April 8, 2005

April 8 2005 by Julia S. Ledford

Formations lesson for April 24: Speaking of Persecution : Friday, April 8, 2005
Friday, April 8, 2005

Formations lesson for April 24: Speaking of Persecution

By Julia S. Ledford
Focal Passage: Jude 17-23

Well, I have arrived! I am old enough now to recount stories that young people find hard to believe. Some cannot imagine being required to memorize scripture in public school or that a traveling Bible teacher led a program once a month in our school auditorium in which we were encouraged to memorize scripture for prizes. Some of that memorization has remained and Psalm 1 came to mind as an Old Testament companion to this lesson.

Seat of Scoffers

Jude 17-19

The Psalmist wrote the first Psalm to counteract a perennial problem, one that Jude saw people facing even in the early days of the church. The psalmist had advised: "Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers" (RSV).

There always seem to be enough scoffers to discourage faith. Jude's words indicate the problem had become severe enough that some people were wavering in their commitment to follow Christ. They were turning away from the true faith by listening to people who were worldly and without the Spirit of God.

We face similar temptations today, though we may not struggle against severe persecution as they did. We are deluged with a constant barrage of ideas and concepts that arise from people who have not opened their lives to the Spirit of Christ and are encouraging others to accept worldly perceptions and pursuits.

Positive Action

Jude 20-21

Jude, like the psalmist, recommended some active choices that will keep us on the right track. As the psalmist said, we need to watch where we walk, stand and sit. We must be cautious about where we go and who gives us counsel.

Jude advised the people to take positive action to grow in the holy faith they had first accepted. He offered prayer as the first line of defense and reminded them that the Holy Spirit was a partner with them in prayer. Jude also called for a focus on the love of God and for reverent anticipation of God's mercy through our Lord Jesus Christ. The love of God and assurance of eternal life provide substantial hope in the face of life's challenges.

The psalmist had recommended taking delight in the law of the Lord. Similarly, Jude had counseled the believers (v.17) to hold the predictions of the apostles as sure words of truth.

The truth of God's word provides a powerful line of defense against error and keeps us standing firm against all that would draw us away from the Lord. Prayer and Bible study, verified in community, are essential foundations for building strong faith and combating error. As Bible drill proponents would agree, scripture memorization makes the foundation stronger.

Caution!

Jude 22-23

Jude was alarmed that people were unsteady in their faith. He grieved over division in the church. His heart was heavy with concern and he urged others to join him in the challenge to pull people back to true faith. He called for believers to look with compassion on people who were wavering, rather than being judgmental. He viewed the struggle as if he were snatching folks from some danger like a fire. We need to be aroused to similar concerns today.

He wanted believers to guard their faith from contamination. In his warning against touching even a tunic worn by a scoffer, he may have had in mind the Jewish fear of being defiled in God's sight by touching anyone or anything that was impure. Jude was keenly aware that people are easily led astray to impurity.

We need to heed these warnings and avoid putting ourselves or our churches in position to be influenced away from Christ.

4/8/2005 12:00:00 AM by Julia S. Ledford | with 0 comments



Formations lesson for May 1: Establishing Your Credentials : Friday, April 8, 2005

April 8 2005 by Julia S. Ledford

Formations lesson for May 1: Establishing Your Credentials : Friday, April 8, 2005
Friday, April 8, 2005

Formations lesson for May 1: Establishing Your Credentials

By Julia S. Ledford
Focal Passage: Galatians 1

What horrifies you? Is it terrorist bombings or tsunami devastation? What makes you really angry? Is it news of a child abduction that ends in a backyard grave a few steps from her own home? What troubles you deeply? Is it a father who may have been imprisoned wrongly for 13 years or a woman's earthly destiny caught in a triangle between family, government and medical science?

Paul was that distressed over people accepting a different gospel. Paul's letter to the Galatians raises some interesting questions. How deeply are we moved by people who forsake sound theology to accept a re-defined Christianity? Does it horrify us and grieve us enough to intervene?

An Apostle's Authority

Galatians 1:1-2

Paul established his basis for intervention on his encounter with Jesus on the Damascus Road when he saw the glory of the resurrected Christ in such dazzling splendor that it blinded him.

Apostles were understood to be persons sent and invested with authority to proclaim and uphold the standards of the one who commissioned them. On the Damascus Road, Paul had been given his marching orders from the Lord Jesus himself.

Another Gospel

Galatians 1:4-9

Paul was horrified, angry and deeply troubled, to say the least, because the Galatians had departed from the basic principles that he had preached. Paul was indignant that people he had instructed in the faith were being led in a different direction, choosing a "different gospel" than the one he proclaimed.

The Galatians were adjusting their vision toward a different view of Christ and a gospel of salvation dependent upon works.

When people all around us, within our churches and our own families, choose "another gospel" other than the one handed down by the Apostles, does it trouble us as it did Paul?

Paul used strong language to express the strength of his objection. It is abrasive, even jarring, to our consciences to read Paul saying that anyone should be accursed! It seems out of step with the gospel of grace and love in Christ. It calls us to look deeper and determine what Paul saw as anathema. Two questions emerge for us: (1) what should we be ready to defend passionately in our faith? and (2) what are our credentials for making the defense?

What is the hill of belief on which you would die? For Paul, it was the gospel of justification by grace, through faith in Christ, as opposed to a false gospel in which salvation was still tied to certain aspects of the Jewish law. The issue was freedom from religious legalism; but the central problem was an insufficient view of the efficacy of Christ's atonement.

Grace is hard to grasp. The tendency in human nature is to make our own way and pull our own weight. It is hard to understand that we can do absolutely nothing to earn our salvation and are instead completely dependent upon the love and grace of God at work in Christ Jesus on our behalf.

Building Credentials

Galatians 1:10-24

Are we ready to defend the gospel of grace? Jesus gave all believers for all time their credentials in the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20). I have often heard Christians lament, though, that they don't know enough to witness.

Paul would not allow past heritage, former pursuits or lack of knowledge encumber his witness in any way. He took the time necessary to pray, study, research, interview and understand the gospel.

We can build our credentials in the same way. The gospel of grace is worth the investment of time to grow in effective witness. When you know in your heart that Christ has, through no merit of your own, set you free from bondage to self, unrealistic expectations, guilt, fear, sin and judgment, you know enough to start!

4/8/2005 12:00:00 AM by Julia S. Ledford | with 0 comments



A Baptist reflection on John Paul II : Tuesday, April 5, 2005

April 5 2005 by James Leo Garrett Jr.

A Baptist reflection on John Paul II : Tuesday, April 5, 2005
Tuesday, April 5, 2005

A Baptist reflection on John Paul II

By James Leo Garrett Jr.
Baptist Press

FORT WORTH, Texas - John Paul's 26-year pontificate, the third-longest in history we are told, will be remembered for much more than its longevity. Its impact both on the Roman Catholic Church and on the international community will be examined and pondered for decades to come.

Karol Wojtyla of Poland was the first pope to give flesh-and-blood embodiment to the longtime papal title, "universal pastor." By his travels to more than a hundred nations and by his engagement with audiences and closeness to people, he actualized a global papacy, utilizing as well the various means of the new technological age.

As bishop and archbishop of Cracow, he had learned how to cope with communist authorities, and after assuming the papacy in 1978 he gave encouragement to Catholics living within the Soviet empire. His role in the collapse of that empire will continue to be examined and assessed, as will his tireless advocacy of international peace.

Building on the foundation laid by Popes John XXIII and Paul VI, John Paul II was active in ecumenical relations with Protestants and Eastern Orthodox. All who cherish universal religious liberty should not forget his strong and open advocacy of the declaration on religious liberty when it was being debated at Vatican Council II. But the Polish pope went beyond his predecessors in the realm of interreligious relations, as was made so evident by his visits to synagogues and mosques.

Wojtyla's keen sense of the worth and dignity of human persons was to play out not only in the issues of peace and religious liberty but also in those issues associated with the "culture of life." His firm stances concerning abortion, euthanasia and capital punishment would not always elicit approval from all the Catholic laity but would bring concurrence from many evangelical Protestants.

A published theologian and philosopher before his election as pope, he soon moved to curb liberation theology with its basing Catholic theology on Marxist social analysis. His pontificate would produce the first universal catechism since the 16th century, and the orthodox or conservative nature of his theology would be reflected in his episcopal appointments.

John Paul II's personal commitment to Marian spirituality marked his papacy as well as his Polish upbringing. He sought no new formulations of Mariological dogma, but his active role in Marian piety separated him from his separated Protestant brothers and sisters.

This pope's tenacious retention of the male celibate priesthood, supported by late tradition but without scriptural support, together with the increasing shortage of priests, especially in Europe and North America, has elicited criticism and fueled agitation, especially among Catholic women, and laid at the feet of John Paul's successor a major issue. The celibate priesthood and the less than prompt and vigorous Vatican response to the clergy sexual abuse scandal, especially in the United States, may prove to be negatives in the continuing evaluation of John Paul II's long and eventful papacy.

But the significant increase in the membership of the Roman Catholic Church under John Paul II and the many expressions of his personal charisma will likely cause the affirmative characteristics of his papacy to prevail. Moreover, the truly global papacy of John Paul II, who was the first non-Italian pope in 455 years, likely will make it difficult for the cardinals to turn back the pages of history by electing an Italian as his successor.

(EDITOR'S NOTE - James Leo Garrett, distinguished professor of theology emeritus at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, is the author of "Baptists and Roman Catholicism" and "Reinhold Niebuhr on Roman Catholicism.")

4/5/2005 12:00:00 AM by James Leo Garrett Jr. | with 0 comments



Where I Stand on a Lottery : Friday, April 1, 2005

March 31 2005 by

Where I Stand on a Lottery : Friday, April 1, 2005
Friday, April 1, 2005

Where I Stand on a Lottery

Jim Royston
BSC Executive Director-Treasurer

On February 19, four years ago, the new Governor asked the citizens of North Carolina if we were against a lottery for education to "complete the sentence" and tell him what we were for. As for me, I am for education, children, families, jobs and quality of life. I have dedicated my life for nearly 30 years to serving families in this great state. I believe in public education. Today my daughter, son-in-law, and daughter-in-law are in public classrooms. If a quality education is the right of every North Carolina child then why lay it at the feet of chance? I believe in a growing, job-producing state like North Carolina we will find a way to cut wasteful spending and fund priorities without rewriting our law in order to legalize gambling. I do not want my granddaughter, Brooke, in China Grove to be educated with the grocery money of poor working families.

I am for the working families of North Carolina. My brother, a Federal Justice Department employee living in one of America's largest cities has shared with me over the last 15 years how a state run gambling industry sells lottery tickets in ATM type machines located in the poorest neighborhoods and public housing complexes. Why, you ask? It is because their most successful sales are from these low-income communities. I am for the neediest in our state. That is why I do not want them to be enticed to squander this week's grocery money for a fantasy of false hope doomed to failure.

I believe a government-run lottery creates a "pusher" mentality which will spend millions on TV and radio ads to entice our children. State after state reduces the budgeted education funds and replaces them with "new lottery dollars." The average sales records have revealed evidence that the lowest income families spend three times what the highest income homes do. A lottery exploits people rather than serves them. A lottery offers false promises rather than real hope, promoting a "Lady Luck" ethic rather than a "work" ethic. Gaming related industries contribute to crime and corrupt even legislators.

Listen to a story of Kate and Steve of Colleyville, IL, a typical church-going, community-minded family. They visited a casino agreeing to spend only $40 at the tables for Kate's 40th birthday. In the months that followed, Kate became addicted to every possible form of legal gambling. She pawned wedding rings, stopped paying mortgage payments and finally lost their home. One morning, she drove her nine and eleven year-old children to school and then killed herself. How many "Kates" do you think North Carolina may have dropping kids off at school tomorrow if this passes? Now our legislators are being asked to bring this first taste of gambling to a convenience store near you and every "Kate" in our state.

Dear Representatives of the North Carolina General Assembly, please take a stand for families, schools, jobs and a better, safer North Carolina. Do not create legalized gambling in North Carolina.

3/31/2005 11:00:00 PM by | with 0 comments



New reality television series : Friday, April 1, 2005

March 31 2005 by

New reality television series : Friday, April 1, 2005
Friday, April 1, 2005

New reality television series

I have an idea for a new reality television series. Imagine 1st century barbarism pitted against the modern barbarism we see in our land today. In one corner the culture that crucified Jesus stands; and in the other, the one that starves Terri Schiavo.

First, the legal authorities of both eras ignore innocence. Remember Pilate, the man who had the power of life and death? Knowing Jesus' innocence, he delivered him to be crucified anyway. But wait! Modern judiciaries counter with an unprecedented barbarism of their own. While Jesus suffered the death of a criminal, Terri Schiavo suffers in a manner no criminal would be allowed to suffer in this land.

Second, both cultures have, to the best of their ability, sought to rid themselves of God's authority. Despite Jesus' obvious displays of power and love, 1st century man conspired to rid himself of Christ.

But don't count modern man out just yet, because, he too, is bent on ridding the world of the Almighty and nothing is sacred in his efforts. Theistic cleansing has become the prime objective for modern man and it begins early. Evolutionary teaching molds the minds of our children and this mandated educational medium, in turn, serves to rid the world of anything that resembles the Christian worldview - even intrinsic human worth.

Finally, modern man may have delivered a knockout blow with this last one. In a FOX interview, Arthur Caplan, University of Pennsylvania, noted that a possible arbiter (neurologist) in the Schiavo case "cannot be an objective arbiter," because "He is from the pro-life side and a Christian bio-ethicist." Interpretation: His views are religiously based and therefore neither objective nor valid in the discussion. Wow! What a punch!

Indeed, the Barbarism Award goes to - drum roll please - modern man.

Tony Watts

Thomasville, N.C.

3/31/2005 11:00:00 PM by | with 0 comments



Postmodern background : Friday, April 1, 2005

March 31 2005 by

Postmodern background : Friday, April 1, 2005
Friday, April 1, 2005

Postmodern background

In his article on postmodernism, Richardson made a fine case for the value of our stories, but he missed the topic's background. The following may fill that gap.

To start, let's consider the essentials of Christianity. Christians believe there is a God and that we are reconciled to Him through Jesus Christ, who is both wholly man and wholly God. Christians know this from Scripture, our final authority.

Christianity spread (especially across Europe) until the 18th century when a modern worldview emerged from the writings of Locke, Berkeley, and Hume. Modernism's new closed system could consider only the empirical evidence of particular objects. Its authority was limited to the senses. Modernism could study the evidence of the historical Jesus, but was unable to consider His divinity. It could critically study the text of the Bible, but was unable to contemplate its Truth. Obviously, it would be illogical for people to call themselves modern Christians.

Ultimately modernism reduced people to mere machines. People such as Hegel, Marx, and Nietzsche reacted against modernism; but rather than return to Christianity, they chose the antithesis of modernism. Their views are the foundation for postmodernism. Postmodernists reject modernism's objective facts by regarding only subjective feelings. They reject modernism's search for empirical facts by considering only issues of power. And they reject modernism's logic by becoming absurd (as in "the theater of the absurd"). As Richardson said, their only authority is their own stories.

Examples of postmodernism include Pollack's art of random paint drops on canvas, Cage's music of recorded silence, and Warhol's eight-hour movie of a man sleeping. For those who call themselves postmodern Christians, there's the real danger of becoming absurd.

But there is hope. The good news of Christianity is that God can redeem us from all our isms, including modernism and postmodernism.

Ed Johnson

Buies Creek, N.C.

3/31/2005 11:00:00 PM by | with 0 comments



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